Nigerian government turns to Exeter company to help put Nigerians to work

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A high-level delegation that included the country’s top education official traveled more than 8,000 miles round trip to meet with officials from the Knowledge Institute for Small Business Development.

The goal is to teach college students there how to be entrepreneurs by giving them the tools to start their own business.

“It starts with talking with the person and helping the person to identify what the person wants to do, and I think that is the key instead of just pushing somebody to become an interpreter,” said Folasade Omolara Yemi-Esan, permanent secretary for the Federal Ministry of Education. “You must allow the person to realize they want to do what he wants to do. I thought that was interesting.”

She said universities there train students for white-collar jobs that are in short supply rather than counsel them on how to start their own businesses. The government also envisions setting up entrepreneurial development centers.

The Exeter company creates entrepreneurial and small business development systems and programs that can be online or physical material, according to William Osgood, who co-founded it in 1996.

One Osgood client is the New Hampshire Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities find suitable employment and reach financial and personal independence.

Counselors there help their customers evaluate ideas for a small business.

“The customer would progress through this learning system and at each stage progress to the next stage in terms of whether or not their idea was viable, whether or not they were capable of pulling it off, what they needed to do, what kind of plan they needed, and then at the end of the program they became eligible at Voc Rehab for in many cases a grant of between ($3,000) and $10,000 to help them provide, buy basic equipment or tools or whatever they might need to actually launch this venture,” Osgood said.

John Denisco founded Denisco Construction Co. in Manchester with help from training that Knowledge Institute developed and that he received from Vocational Rehabilitation.

Denisco, 37, said he was convicted of distributing OxyContin and served six years in prison and 10 months at a halfway house.

“I’m happy that I beat it, and I paid my dues, and now I can give back to the community,” he said.

He used material developed by Knowledge Institute that Vocational Rehabilitation adopted.

“They helped me form a business plan, how to do some marketing, how to research my competition,” Denisco said.

He also received $10,000 in assistance to start his business last year, focusing on siding, roofing and framing.

“They definitely assisted with me with things to look out for and to keep track of my finances and budget and all that,” he said. “They definitely made me able to grow quicker because now I’ve got a good amount of equipment.”

Vocational Rehabilitation Director Lisa Hinson-Hatz said the Knowledge Institute system has assisted 120 people, leading to 51 launching their own businesses.

The financial assistance, which isn’t merely writing a check, is to wean people off of Social Security benefits and “to be part of their community like they want to,” she said.

The bureau, which is 80 percent federally funded, pays the Knowledge Institute between $600 and $800 a person.

“If we look at the return on investment, it’s tremendous,” she said.

For Nigeria, Osgood said his company’s system during its first year in operation has a “realistic goal” of creating up to 500,000 new jobs at an average cost of $10 a job.

Nigeria’s state-owned bank would provide low-interest rates to college students going through the program to help launch their businesses.

“Rather than look to collateral, they’re looking to knowledge and the capability of being able to actually run the business,” Osgood said. “And that really among all things is the cause of the biggest failure in Nigeria businesses right now just as it is in this country. People start a business and they have no idea what to do. The business fails in two or three years.”


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